Episode 15: Jill Konrath on more sales in less time and eliminating distractions

Jill KonrathJill Konrath has written 3 best-selling books on sales, and now she’s out with a new book on personal productivity called More Sales in Less Time, Surprisingly simple strategies for today’s crazy-busy sellers.

As Jill mentions, she didn’t write this book because she started as an expert in this, but “to save my life”, because even Jill Konrath has challenges with getting things done and handling the constant interruptions of modern life.

Here’s a short clip:

 In this episode, Jill talks about:
  • The completely accidental way she got into sales (this is becoming a pattern, right?).
  • Why sales was a great fit for her, against all her preconceived notions.
  • Why she started her own company.
  • How she got overwhelmed with the very technology that was supposed to help her.
  • Why our brain is not optimized for modern life and how it leads us down the wrong path in the modern world. (And what happens to your IQ when you multitask.)
  • The real reason she wrote this book (to save my life)
  • How family emergencies forced Jill to prioritize even more ruthlessly (crossing of the “nice to do’s”, and “like to do’s” and focus on the “have to do’s”. (And why having a “don’t do” list is as important as having a “to do” list.
  •  How Jill used to use her calendar, and how she changed to be more effective with her time.
  • The practical suggestion from Jill’s book that Reuben put into place the next week.
  • The surprising amount of time top sellers spend selling
  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique to get started on tough tasks (Jill says she gets more done this way than with any other technique)

Plus, hear how this interview caused me to violate my own productivity rules. 😉

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.

Books by Jill:

More Sales Less Time

Other books mentioned in this episode:

  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (who here in Austin created the biggest real estate company in the world)

Apps mentioned:

  • RescueTime— gives you analytics on how you’re spending your time on your computer.
  • Freedom.to— block websites that can drain your time.
  • Unroll.me— easier management of email subscriptions
  • SaneBox— automatically filters your email for you to show you the most important stuff (personally, I’m generally pretty happy with the way Google prioritizes email)

The wine…

FRAN_2014_CabernetSauvignon_NapaValley_lowRes1
I switched to cab for this one– a very nice 2013 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley cab which was quite good and made me think I need to get back to cabernet sauvignon more often.

Jill enjoyed “something white from the fridge.” 😉 She said she’s not used to having wine while being interviewed.

 


Where you can find Jill: JillKonrath.com, @jillkonrath, LinkedIn, YouTube

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

 


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Episode 6: John Livesay on How to Pitch

John Livesay (aka “The Pitch Whisperer”) helps entrepreneurs craft compelling pitches. He’s the author of The Successful Pitch: Conversations On Going From Invisible To Investable (pretty good pitch, right there in the title), host of The Successful Pitch Podcast, and has been featured in Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, CBS, Fox, and more.

….

John Livesay
In this episode, John discusses how he got into this niche, how hard he worked on his own pitch, plus:

Plus,

  • The two simple, critical elements of a pitch
  • Why people are so bad at pitching
  • Why stories are so important
  • The importance of establishing your niche (it’s not just about your pitch)
  • What happens when you confuse prospects with your pitch
  • How surviving in the Amazon is like surviving in the business world
  • And much more…

Books mentioned in the episode:


The Wine

Stags Leap ChardonnayWe did this via Skype, so we each had to bring our own wine.ron-rubin-russian-river-valley-pinot-noir-2013

John had some Stag’s Leap chardonnay (@StagsLeapWines).
Reuben had Ron Rubin (no relation) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (2013). Quite yummy for folks who like Russian River Valley pinots.

 

 


Where you can find John: Web site, Twitter, The Successful Pitch Podcast

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 5: June Rodil on wine, customer experience, delegation, and more

June RodilJune started her career in restaurants as a waitress, paying her way through college on the way to a law career that never ended up happening. Instead, she learned a ton about wine, became beverage director for some of the top restaurants in Austin, became one of 147 Master Sommeliers in the world, and opened her own restaurant.

In this episode, June discusses how to pick wine as a beginner, how she became as Master Sommelier, and how she opened her own restaurant.

Plus,

  • Secrets for great customer service
  • How to delegate as a control freak
  • Why spreadsheets are still important
  • How to set up your product offerings to maximize customer happiness and minimize your stress.

 


The wine: 2012 Rosie Shuster Sankt Laurent (the ‘k’ is silent). $24. I didn’t know Austrian wine could taste this good. A little sweet, but not overly so. Lots of flavors. (Listen to June give the real description.)

 


Where you can find June: June’s Restaurant, Twitter (here’s one of those pictures with an interesting mixture of drinks)

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 4: Joe Williamson

joe-williamsonGuest: Joe Williamson, Partner at Alloy Partners, talks about:

  • how to price new products (brilliant stuff), including how pricing too low makes your prospects look bad
  • having an internal locus of control vs an external locus of control
  • what he learned from teaching at The Princeton Review
  • why he wouldn’t turn to sales books for sales advice (and the surprising persona of the best sales person)

Here’s the link to Episode 4 with Joe Williamson.


The wine: Joe doesn’t drink, but he helps me run an experiment on aerating the wine. Listen to get the results. (Hint, you may want to pick up one of the items in the show notes.)

Chateau Recougne 2012 Bordeaux. Pretty rich, definitely benefits from aeration, then mellows out nicely. Yum.

Chateau Recougne 2012


Venturi Essential Wine Aerator

How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything, by Barbara Walters


Where you can find Joe: Alloy Partners, LinkedIn.

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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What Not to Say in a Sales Call (Courtesy of Apple)

If you’re doing something that upsets your customers and prospects, whether it’s changing prices, revising a service plan, or removing the universal audio port in favor of a proprietary standard, don’t insist on giving yourselves credit for “courage” in front of your customers. Certainly, explain your reason(s), and don’t feel obliged to share everything, but even Apple can’t pull this off properly. (In fairness to Schiller, he was trying to paraphrase Steve Jobs, who put it more eloquently– not just “having courage”, but having “the courage of our convictions” and “being willing to take the heat”.)

K.I.S.S.

Here’s a great drawing from Eric Burke (who’s site seems to be down, or I’d link there.):

Apple Product, Google Product, Your Product

Aside from being funny, this says a lot about not just products, but sales. “Your Company’s App” is complicated not because someone wants to make it complicated, but because the requirements are complicated. Sometimes, this is just because some things are complex. Often, it’s because people didn’t have clarity about the mission. Usually, it’s a combination of these factors.

When you’re an engineer doing sales and marketing, it’s easy to get sucked into the technical details. After all, you’re better at this stuff than most of the other folks in sales and marketing. Before you realize it, your sales cycle looks like the “Your Company’s App.” Too many details without clarity. The details are great, but they should come from a clear view of the overall mission.

I see too many proposals that have 10 pages of techno-jargon and no sense of what the prospect wants to accomplish, how they will measure success, or whether the vendor will be able to claim success.

Think of your sales efforts like the Google and Apple products– very simple to understand and achieve the goal, with a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

As they say, Keep It Simple, Stupid. 😉

Networking for Nerds

Of all the uncomfortable sales and marketing activities you suddenly have to handle, networking is probably the least favorite for introverts. Trying to make small talk is painful. You know some people can “work a room” without apparent effort, but that’s not you.

Here are some tips to make the experience more fun and more productive.

  1. Know why you’re there. It’s not just to eat lunch or make sales. (More on that in a moment.) Are you there to find contacts for your pipeline? To hire employees? Meet experts who can help you with key business tasks? Meet people who have expertise you want to gain? Knowing the purpose lets you target the right events. If you’re targeting prospects, visiting with your peers may not be helpful. But if you need expertise and a sounding board, your peers will be more useful than your customers.
  2. Don’t try to sell. The power of the network grows exponentially with its members. If you try to sell everyone you meet, you’ll not only not make (m)any sales, you’ll shut down sales to those peoples’ networks, which is where the real opportunity is.
  3. Meet people, not opportunities. Don’t treat people just as dollar signs. If there was no business involved– say you’re at your kid’s soccer game, talking to other parents– you’ll establish a human connection, not an economic connection. Do the same thing at business networking events. Of course, the central topic of conversation may be business, instead of excessive homework, but talk to people like people. Ask people about themselves. Be interested. Not just “what do you do?”, but “this may be a silly question, but is that like X?” or “Why does someone hire you instead of doing it themselves/using popular alternative/etc?” Ask questions to get a real understand of who they are and how their business works. People love to talk about this stuff, and I always learn more by listening than by talking.
  4. Offer to help. When you make a connection with someone you like, ask who is their ideal customer? If you know someone who is struggling with the problem they solve, offer to introduce them. (Depending on how comfortable you are, you can always ask the person already in your network if they want the introduction. If they do, obviously make the introduction. If not, just explain that the timing or the fit isn’t as good as you thought. The new contact will still appreciate that you tried.) Often, people are not good at describing their ideal customer. I have met people who say “any business” or “anyone with a website”, and stubbornly resist my attempts to get more specific. Unfortunately, these people don’t get introductions, because I am not confident in their ability to help people more than anyone else in the market. But if they say, “we help dentists get more patients from their websites”, then I know who might be a good fit, and I have a good reason to make an introduction to dentists. (The flip side of this is that people will often ask you the same question, and you should be ready with a very crisp answer.) Beyond introductions, if there’s something simple that you can do without cost, offer to do that. (Maybe you can’t optimize the dentist’s website, but you can offer to take a look at it and make some suggestions.) Keep in mind that the people who will be most eager to get your free help may be the least likely to pay you to actually solve their problems. It’s up to you have a way to be helpful that doesn’t take too much time.
  5. Follow up. So many good opportunities die because people get busy. If you’re organized and disciplined about following up, you can get much more out of networking than the people who work the room and collect all the cards and never follow up. I’ve had opportunities materialize years after meeting people, because I stayed in touch with people, because I introduced people, because I tried to be helpful. Don’t think of the goal as “get X business cards at this event”, but instead, “make X introductions over the next 3 months based on people I meet at this event.”

Networking is a long game. Don’t be one of those people who thrusts business cards at everyone they meet and doesn’t make a single actual connection. Be helpful to the network, and let the network work for you. You’ll take a lot of pressure off yourself and a lot of awkwardness out of the events. You’ll have more fun, and, before you know it, get more business.

What traits does it really take to sell?

Picture a sales rep in your mind. What traits do you see? Someone confident, maybe even brash, maybe even with questionable honesty. Whether this is a fair stereotype, we all know it.

For a lot of people coming from technical backgrounds into sales, this is a problem. We may not think we fit the mold for sales success.

So, how well does the stereotype correlate with sales results?

Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot came to Austin recently and talked about how they built a scalable, predictable revenue engine. They used metrics to figure out what worked for and what attributes they should look for in sales reps. What did they find?

The “traditional” sales skills– closing, objection handling, and pushiness, correlated negatively with results. What did correlate with success? The number one factor was coach-ability. Curiosity and conscientiousness also helped a lot. This doesn’t sound like such a personality mismatch now, does it?

(Roberge notes that different situations may call for different characteristics. His point is that you want a process for figuring out what those characteristics are for your organization. My point is that in many cases, what leads to success is actually what you have, and not what you think of as the stereotypical sales profile.

 

Don’t Fight the Customer’s Buying Process

When we start selling, we often find a blog post, a book, a CRM tool, etc that gives us a “sales process”. Then we implement the process. As engineers, this feels good. There’s a system with defined inputs, activities, and outputs. We get excited and start (gasp!) making phone calls. However, something feels off.

We’re fighting with the customer’s buying process. So we’re working very hard with little to who for it. Because we have defined success exclusively in our own terms– moving prospects through the stages in our funnel– we have a hard time with prospects who don’t move through the funnel as quickly as we would like.

Yet, when we buy something, we hate pushy sales people who are more focused on closing the deal than helping us.

It is important to have a sales process (and we’ll get into that in later posts), but your sales process can’t (shouldn’t) fight the prospect’s buying process.

Mike Wilner, co-founder of hellocompass.com, has a great post called “How Our Customers Taught Us How to Sell“.

We did this by waving goodbye to the “always be closing” mentality and stepping outside of the vacuum where our first sales process was created. Instead, we let our customers teach us how to sell to them and designed a new sales process to reflect that.

Check it out, and think about how your customers want to buy. Then design your sales process to support your goals and theirs.